Students team up with Michigan Sea Grant to protect native fish

A threatened fish called the River Redhorse is the latest subject of the Native Fish Heroes poster series.

The River Redhorse suffers from a case of mistaken identity. Even though it is a native fish that requires clean flowing rivers, many people mistake the River Redhorse for invasive carp or other native suckers that can tolerate polluted water. In fact, the River Redhorse is listed as a threatened species in Michigan and is only found in a handful of large, rocky rivers.

Students participating in the Lakeshore Environmental Education Program (LEEP) at Walden Green Montessori School in Ferrysburg had a chance to get to know the River Redhorse this spring. They learned how to identify closely-related species and teamed up with Michigan Sea Grant to teach others why the River Redhorse is so rare.

Guilt by association

The River Redhorse is one of six species of redhorse sucker living in Michigan waters. Some of the other species are very common, and fishing regulations allow for unlimited harvest of other sucker species using a variety of gear including spears, bows and arrows, certain types of nets, and hook-and-line. Suckers are bony but very good to eat when canned or ground. Unfortunately, the River Redhorse is easily mistaken for other species and is sometimes harvested along with other sucker species.

Worse yet, some people mistakenly believe River Redhorse are a harmful or invasive species. They get to be fairly big (over 30 inches long) and could be confused with invasive common carp. Perhaps this is one reason why River Redhorse are sometimes left on the bank to rot.

River Redhorse need clean-swept rocky areas to spawn. Many large rivers suffer from pollution in the form of silt and sand that washes in from eroding banks, city streets, and agricultural land. This “nonpoint source” pollution can smother eggs and also harms native filter-feeding mussels. The River Redhorse feeds heavily on native mussels, and the decline of mussels in many areas of the eastern United States may be one reason for the rarity of River Redhorse.

Big rivers are also subject to development for flood control, navigation, and hydro power.  Channelization removes important shallow-water spawning area and dams restrict the movement of fish. This can block River Redhorse from reaching historic spawning grounds, but some dams also restrict the movement of harmful invasive species.

Even though River Redhorse are not common anywhere, there are three Michigan river systems that still provide good habitat and support breeding populations: the Muskegon River, St. Joseph River, and Grand River.

Students at Walden Green attend school near the mouth of the Grand River, one of the last places in Michigan to find River Redhorse. By highlighting threats and suggesting ways that people can help to keep our rivers clean, the students hope to help protect this local treasure. They even came up with a “Rockin’ River Redhorse” theme poster, which emphasizes the fish’s need for clean, rocky habitat.

The River Redhorse poster is the second in Michigan Sea Grant’s Native Fish Heroes poster series. The Lake Sturgeon was the first poster created, and other teachers around Michigan have expressed interest in tackling Cisco, Smallmouth Bass, and Burbot. If you teach at a K-12 school and have a local connection to one of our fascinating native fish species, contact Michigan Sea Grant for additional details.

Download poster Big rivers, big problems

Alpena students learn while caring for island habitats of local community park

Elementary students tackle critical Great Lakes and natural resource conservation issues, enhance their community, and enjoy a little hands-on learning along the way.

Students review debris they recovered at Rotary Island

DenBleyker and students review debris they picked up at the island.

With the sun shining and just a short walk from school, a class of energetic students recently crossed the bridge over the Thunder Bay River to Rotary Island in Alpena, Mich. These third graders from Lincoln Elementary, Alpena Public Schools were on their way to finalize a series of environmental studies and stewardship projects. This field trip culminated a year-long study inspired by their teacher Tina DenBleyker, who has opened her classroom doors into the community to enhance student learning through hands-on environmental studies.

Applying creative place-based stewardship education (PBSE) strategies, DenBleyker engages students through hands-on community connections and environmental experiences. At the heart of their project was Rotary Island – which students ‘adopted’ and in doing so built a mutually benefiting relationship with their local Alpena Rotary Club. Supported through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, this Lincoln Elementary educator and student team connected with community and conservation partners, including the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Alpena, Huron Pines AmeriCorpsMichigan State University ExtensionMichigan Sea GrantNOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuaryand U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

This project illustrates a great example of how PBSE strategies enhance learning and foster community connections through environmental stewardship studies; resulting in:

  • An engaging educational opportunity. Learning about life cycles is one example of a science learning goal for third grade students in Michigan; and what better way to learn about life cycles than exploring local monarch butterflies and their milkweed habitats. Reading and writing was another significant goal in this project both as students prepared for their projects and also as they reflected and wrote about their science explorations and findings. Students also gained valuable life skills working in teams, communicating with community partners, and leadership in implementing their projects.
  • Watershed studies resulting in environmental stewardship. Students are conducting litter pickups, planting native pollinator gardens, and a variety of other efforts that enhance and beautify this island and public park. For example, the students pick up litter and tally the items found while accomplishing marine debris monitoring and prevention goals promoted by the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program and NOAA Marine Debris program. While picking up the litter, students identified issues with fishing line – addressing this issue by partnering with Michigan Sea Grant to build and install monofilament recycling bins on the Island. Finally, their monarch lifecycle studies led to learning about pollinators and an eventual partnership with USFWS to plan and plant a native pollinator garden on the island.
  • Valued community connections and contributions. Throughout the year students met and expanded their relationship with the local Alpena Rotary Club who own and manage the island. Mary Dunckel (also an MSU Extension Educator in Alpena County) provides leadership for Rotary Club, which welcomed and supports this school partnership on the island. Students learned more about the island and ways they could help when interviewing Rotarian Patrick Heraghty (Director of Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan). This partnership benefits school improvement goals and provides a community enhancement opportunity.
Alpena Elementary School students show off their completed monofilament recycling station – one of two installed on Rotary Island. Photo: Tina DenBleyker.

Alpena Elementary School students show off their completed monofilament recycling station – one of two installed on Rotary Island. Photo: Tina DenBleyker.

DenBleyker’s vision and planning for this stewardship project started last summer during the Lake Huron PBSE Summer Teacher Institute, a training sponsored by the NEMGLSI network and Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy. Here she learned about place-based stewardship education strategies; connected and traded ideas with other teachers, Great Lakes scientists and a variety of community partners; and gained resources in support of her work. DenBleyker jumped straight into PBSE programming with her students last fall with visits to the island – leveraging new partners and opportunities, navigating challenges, and celebrating successes. She shared her reflections as a new teacher getting started in PBSE during the 2017 NEMIGLSI Regional Networking Meeting. This summer she will share her experiences with new teachers as a lead teacher mentor during the very same Lake Huron PBSE Summer Teacher Institute. This year’s Institute is scheduled for August 14-18, 2017, in Alpena, and teachers interested can learn more and submit applications online. Applications are due July 27.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension serve in providing leadership for the NEMIGLSI network, which is part of a larger, statewide network and partnership, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI). Established in 2007 with funding from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, the GLSI supports place-based stewardship education in schools and communities across Michigan. Partnerships are invaluable in our endeavor to support stewardship of our Great Lakes and natural resources. Through the NEMIGLSI network, and applied place-based education strategies, our educator partners are addressing critical Great Lakes issues.

Detroit River Restoration Tour

Event Date: 8/17/2017

The Detroit River has seen its fair share of environmental challenges. Now, after years of dedicated restoration work, the Detroit River and its ecosystems are heading toward recovery.

On August 17, 2017, join the Friends of the Detroit River, Michigan Sea Grant, and our many partners as we celebrate the hard work and dedication of those who have helped shape a new future for the Detroit River. This is your opportunity to visit the habitat restoration sites of Grosse Ile and Belle Isle for an up close, behind the scenes, expert-guided tour.

Highlights of the event include:
 
10 am – Noon, Grosse Ile
  • Boat tour of Stony Island restoration site
  • Coffee and donuts provided
1:30 – 4:30, Belle Isle
  • Lunch and short program in Dossin Museum
  • Meet a live sturgeon
  • Bus tour of Belle Isle restoration sites including Lake Okonoka and Blue Heron Lagoon.

Download the full agenda (PDF)

More information about restoration sites:

Space is limited. Reserve your spot today!

Registration: ow.ly/DiBq30cQDBf

Contact: Mary Bohling, (313) 410-9431, bohling@msu.edu

Sustainable Small Harbors Webinar

Event Date: 5/8/2017

Michigan Sea Grant to host webinar about Sustainable Small Harbors project findings and next steps

On May 8 at 2–3:30 p.m. EDT, Michigan Sea Grant will host a webinar titled, “The Sustainable Small Harbors Project: Helping coastal communities re-imagine their waterfront.”

This webinar will provide an overview of the Sustainable Small Harbors project, an initiative to boost the long-term well-being of Michigan’s coastal communities. All people involved in coastal communities, both in and outside of Michigan, are invited to participate.

The Sustainable Small Harbors project arose in 2014 when many of Michigan’s small coastal communities were struggling to cope with fluctuating water levels, declining populations, and economic instability. The project research team (consisting of Lawrence Technological University, Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., Veritas Economic Consulting, LLC, and David Larkin Knight, LLC) has assessed barriers preventing small harbor communities from becoming socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

Members of the project research team along with personnel from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension facilitated in-depth visioning workshops in six coastal communities to help community members identify potential growth areas for their waterfronts. By May 2017, the team will publish a guidebook to help other coastal communities analyze their own waterfront assets and develop strategies to bolster their long-term economic, social, and environmental stability.

“This effort empowers communities to overcome the burdens of their historic legacies,” says Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes. “The process engaged community members in constructive conversations to create a shared vision.”

The 90-minute webinar will provide an overview of the project’s history, major findings and outcomes, and future directions. Representatives from the cities of New Baltimore and Ontonagon will speak about their experiences with the project. The webinar will conclude with an open question-and-answer session.

Registration is required to participate in this webinar, scheduled for May 8, 2017, at 2–3:30 p.m. EDT. Please register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8474664373942398467

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with details about joining the webinar. Learn more about the project at: www.sustainablesmallharbors.org

Contact: Rhett Register, Michigan Sea Grant; (734) 647-0767, rregist@umich.edu 

Seminar: Fish Spawning Reef Planning Techniques

Event Date: 5/15/2017

reef-restoration-graphic

This seminar will be held in conjunction with the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) 2017 conference in Detroit. You do not need to register for IAGLR to participate.

A number of factors, including construction of shipping channels, land use changes and dams, have degraded rocky fish spawning habitat or made it inaccessible to native, migratory fish. One method for compensating for spawning habitat losses is to construct fish spawning reefs, essentially beds of loose rock placed on the river bottom that provide adequate protection and flow through the rocks for egg incubation. Though simple in concept, reef projects need to be carefully sited and designed to avoid accumulating sediment, attract desired fish and support young fish through the critical early life stages.

This team- taught seminar will share techniques developed through eight reef projects established in the St. Clair and Detroit River System over the past fifteen years. Specific topics will include: site assessment and selection, hydrodynamics and sedimentation concerns, reef design and construction strategies and monitoring of early life stages of fish.

One highlight of the workshop will be a practical lesson on river hydraulics and sediment transport and a hand-on exercise with free river modeling software, led by a scientist from the USGS Geomorphology and Sediment Transport Lab. This interactive seminar is open to all types of restoration practitioners, including professional engineers, project managers, researchers and anyone hoping to champion, design or monitor a constructed spawning reef in Great Lakes nearshore areas, connecting channels or larger rivers.

Date: Monday, May 15, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: IAGLR’s Great Lakes Research Conference, Cobo Center Room 258, 1 Washington Blvd, Detroit, Michigan
Continuing Education: Seminar participants will receive a certificate showing they completed 7 hours of continuing education suitable for professional license renewals.
Cost: $75 for professionals, $30 for students 
Registration deadline: 5:00 p.m., May 10, 2017
Cancellation: No refunds will be issued for cancellations after May 5.

For professionals ($75):
 

For students ($30):

For questions, contact:
Lynn Vaccaro
University of Michigan Water Center
Lvaccaro@umich.edu
(734) 763-0056

Putting back the (Little) Rapids: River restoration in the Saint Marys Area of Concern

Improving water flow, fish spawning habitat likely to improve river’s health.

Fishing using traditional methods in the Saint Mary’s River Rapids circa 1902. Photo: Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fishing using traditional methods in the Saint Mary’s River Rapids circa 1902. Photo: Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Saint Marys River today in the bi-national cities of Sault Ste. Marie, and you will experience a vibrant area based largely around the locks structures that allow large ships to pass between Canada and the United States on lakes Superior and Huron. These impressive structures support both an important commercial shipping industry as well as a thriving tourism industry. However, travel back in time prior to the 1600s and the Saint Marys River looked vastly different. Pounding rapids, coastal wetlands, and rustic islands created wildlife habitat for a large variety of species. In particular, the rapids of the Saint Marys provided spawning habitat for native fish species including lake whitefish and lake sturgeon. This thriving fishery was used as tribal fishing grounds for thousands of years by Native Americans and later attracted fur traders and European settlers to the area.

map of little rapids area

Since the industrial development of Sault Ste. Marie, portions of the river closest to the city have seen large amounts of habitat degradation. While impressive wetlands and riparian habitat still exist downstream of the cities, the area of the river nearest to them has had severe habitat degradation along with contamination from nearby industry, which have resulted in it receiving an international designation as an Area of Concern. Areas of Concern (AOCs) are designated by the bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement as areas where “… impairment of beneficial uses has occurred as a result of human activities.” AOCs designated through this agreement now receive special attention through state, provincial, tribal and federal governments and funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The goal of this funding is to remove contaminants and restore habitat so the areas can be “delisted” and can once again be enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike.

Throughout the last 30 years, a number of activities have improved the habitat and water quality within the Saint Marys AOC, and around 3 years ago a collaborative effort began to restore a section of the rapids. The bi-national public advisory committee, which provides input on the cleanup and delisting process for the AOC, partnered with many local agencies to initiate an effort to restore fast flowing rapids to a section of the river near Sugar Island known as the “Little Rapids.” More than a half-century ago, a road and berm were created near the island’s ferry dock that had only two small culverts, restricting flow to a slow trickle. These culverts were beginning to deteriorate and the committee saw an opportunity to replace the aging structure with a bridge and reconnect the natural fast flow that once existed. Given that only 10 percent of the original rapids remain within this stretch of the Saint Marys River, restoring them could have a large, positive impact.

Over the last two years, funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative were used to plan the design and construction, perform scientific studies to assure the process would result in a positive outcome, and over the course of summer 2016 the construction was completed. Many agencies such as the Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission and Lake Superior State University (LSSU) Aquatic Research Lab assisted with public outreach and scientific studies to ensure the success of the project.

On a recent visit to the site, Dr. Ashley Moerke of LSSU commented on how impressive it was that the riverbed was already returning to its original state. Where silt and sand once existed, there is now lush cobble and gravel riverbeds scoured clean by the fast moving water. Moerke notes that in areas of the river that retain fast flowing rapids the macroinvertebrate life is far more diverse and rich than in degraded areas such as the Little Rapids site prior to restoration. By restoring the rapids, not only will spawning habitat be created for native fish, but increased macroinvertebrate populations could create higher quality food sources for a variety of fish species. Wading and small craft fishing opportunities for species such as walleye, whitefish, trout and salmon are likely a reality thanks to the Little Rapids restoration project. Prior to this project there were no accessible rapids for fishing on the U.S. side of the Saint Marys.

The Little Rapids restoration project is a great example of how multiple organizations can partner together to improve habitat for humans and wildlife alike within the Great Lakes region. The restoration of these rapids has the potential to improve fish populations, fishing opportunities, and ultimately contribute towards the delisting of the Saint Mary’s River as an international AOC.

Planning for the future of Rogers City’s Waterfront

Event Date: 10/25/2016
End Date: 10/27/2016

sustainable-small-harbors-rogers-city

News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Joe Hefele
City Manager, Rogers City
(989) 734-2191

[Rogers City, Mich.] – On September 14, more than 80 Rogers City residents met at the Rogers City Theater to discuss the future of the city’s waterfront. The Rogers City community is now invited to the next phase of the case study.

From October 25 to 27, the city and project team will host a three-day planning meeting, or “design charrette,” to identify a shared vision for the community’s waterfront.

Three public events and several technical meetings are scheduled. Participants will explore ways to further distinguish Rogers City as a unique waterfront community and destination.

The state- and federally-funded project aims to assist coastal communities in identifying planning objectives to ensure a secure future for public harbors. Design and planning professionals will assist the community in developing a vision for the waterfront based on hands-on public participation.

Public Events for the Sustainable Harbor Design Charrette

Day 1: October 25
6 – 8 p.m.
Public Input Workshop

Day 2: October 26
6 – 8 p.m.
Open House: Selecting a Preferred Option

Day 3: October 27
4 – 6 p.m.
Public “Work in Progress” Session for Rogers City Waterfront

Evening events are held at the Presque Isle District Library, Rogers City, 181 E. Erie St.

Charrette team open studio at City Hall, Rogers City, 193 E. Michigan Avenue on October 26 and 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

What to Expect

On day one of the charrette, participants will identify several specific planning options for the waterfront and surroundings. During the open house on day two, participants will view visual depictions of the options identified on day one and will work towards a preferred option for the waterfront and surroundings. Day three will provide a review of the “work-in-progress” vision to ensure the research team accurately captured community preferences put forth throughout the process.

The research team will then return in several weeks with the community’s refined vision and supporting materials before delivering planning resources to the community.

Participants in the charrette will have the opportunity to consider many characteristics of the community including accessibility, available dockage, retail and service amenities, parks and recreation, aesthetic values, and finances. Each of these characteristics is important in positioning Rogers City as an environmentally, socially, and economically secure harbor community.

The research team will be stationed at the City Hall city council chambers through much of Wednesday and Thursday to develop visual and technical supporting materials for the preferred option. If you are unable to attend the evening open houses or are interested in the charrette process, you are welcome to visit the research team at City Hall between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

All Rogers City residents are encouraged to participate. Refreshments will be available for the three public sessions and no registration is required.

Sessions will take place at the Presque Isle District Library meeting room at 181 E. Erie Street, Rogers City.

For more information on the project, visit: www.miseagrant.umich.edu/smallharborsustainability.

Additional Contacts

Dr. Donald Carpenter, P.E.
Project Manager
Lawrence Technological University
carpenter@ltu.edu
(248) 204-2549

Mark Breederland
Educator & Facilitator
Michigan Sea Grant Extension
breederl@msu.edu
(231) 922-4628

Dan Leonard
Northeast region Community Assistance Team
Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Leonardd6@michigan.org
(989) 387-4467

Visioning for City of St. Ignace Waterfront

Event Date: 10/24/2016

sustainable-small-harbors-st-ignace

News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Clyde Hart or Les Therrien
City of St. Ignace
(906) 643-9671
simgr@lighthouse.net

[St. Ignace, Mich.] – The City of St. Ignace has been selected as a case study community in developing a sustainable small harbor management strategy for Michigan’s coastal communities. A research and design team will engage the St. Ignace community in an exercise to identify opportunities to secure the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of public waterfront facilities and the nearby community.

Driven by input from local citizens and community leaders, the project will review a draft coastal community sustainability toolkit and create some updated vision options for the City of St. Ignace harbor and waterfront. This will include learning from potential management strategies useful for small harbors elsewhere in Michigan and, more specifically, to assist the City of St. Ignace with identifying planning objectives that help ensure a more secure future.

The project is supported by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lawrence Technological University, Edgewater Resources, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development, and Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Public Meetings for Sustainable Harbor Visioning

Visioning Meeting
2–5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, 2016
St. Ignace Public Library
110 W. Spruce Street
St. Ignace, Michigan  49781

Agenda and more details available at: www.miseagrant.umich.edu/smallharborsustainability/get-involved/st-ignace/

Benefits to St. Ignace

As one of six case study communities, St. Ignace will benefit from in-depth visioning assessment — typically valued into the thousands of dollars — at no direct cost. The multi-disciplinary project team will host a key meeting to garner feedback, develop ideas, and create a sustainable vision for the St. Ignace waterfront and nearby areas.

Share Your Vision

Developing a vision for a sustainable harbor requires input from a wide range of stakeholders, including landowners, waterfront users, planning officials, chamber of commerce members, and local citizens. To share your vision, please attend this upcoming public meeting to collaboratively develop vision elements for the St. Ignace waterfront.

The visioning meeting is scheduled for 2 –5 p.m. Monday, October 24, 2016, at the St. Ignace Public Library, 110 W. Spruce Street,  St. Ignace, Michigan. Discussion will include pedestrian access, harbor use, and linking the waterfront to downtown and commercial areas.

 

Additional Contacts:

Mark Breederland
Educator & Facilitator
Michigan Sea Grant Extension
breederl@msu.edu
(231) 922-4628

Dr. Donald Carpenter, P.E.
Project Manager
Lawrence Technological University
carpenter@ltu.edu
(248) 204-2549

St. Clair – Detroit River System Initiative Annual Meeting

Event Date: 2/11/2016

Establishing Priority Indicators for Coordinated Action 2016-2023

February 11, 2016

Wayne County Community College, Downriver Campus
21000 Northline Road
Taylor, Michigan

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST. Registration opens at 8:00 a.m.

Registration in now open for the 2016 SCDRS Annual Meeting! Registration will be open until COB February 5. The fee this year is $45.

Agenda topics include:

  • Steering, Science & Monitoring and Communications Committee updates
  • Themed updates (Fisheries, Habitat, AIS, AOCs, Nutrients and Societal Satisfaction)
  • Two rounds of breakout sessions on draft SCDRS Indicators to track progress in the SCDRS

A block of rooms are on hold for Feb 10–11 for $85 under the St. Clair – Detroit River System Initiative at the Comfort Suites.

Thank you to this year’s sponsors:  ECT, Inc., DTE Energy, and SmithGroupJJR!  If your organization is interested in being a sponsor of the SCDRS Initiative, please contact Mary Bohling.

Additional questions?

Michelle Selzer
SCDRS Communication Subcommittee Chair
Lake Erie Coordinator
Michigan Office of the Great Lakes
(517) 284-5050

A History of Wetlands in Michigan

Lake St. Clair Metropark, frog

Coastal wetlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world, supporting an incredible variety of species. However, for many decades wetlands were viewed as blight on the landscape – dangerous wastelands filled with disease. This three-part series explores the historic role of wetlands in Michigan and more contemporary understandings of the full benefits wetlands provide to both human and natural communities. Part One and Part Two outline the ecological and economic benefits that wetlands bring to Michigan. Part Three discusses the history of land use change in Michigan and how these trends have shaped the state of wetlands today.

Three-part series: